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Posted at: Feb 10, 2019, 1:18 AM; last updated: Feb 10, 2019, 1:18 AM (IST)CONSUMERS BEWARE!

On digital highway, go paperless

Pushpa Girimaji

A couple of months ago, I lost my wallet and, with it, my driving licence and the vehicle registration certificate. I now learn that I need not have carried those documents with me and could well have used the electronic documents. Is this true? What if a policeman refuses to accept the virtual documents?

Yes, you don’t have to carry these physical documents any more. However, I must make it clear that carrying the virtual RC and DL does not mean taking a picture of these documents on your phone or scanning them using the scanner app on your mobile phone and storing them. For these to be authentic documents, you must download them from one of the two government sources: mParivahan or DigiLocker. It is easy to download them and if a policeman asks you for the documents, you can just open the application on your cell phone and show it. If a policeman refuses to accept the virtual document, you can show him the notification amending Rule 139 of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules.

Rule 139 says that “the driver or a conductor of a motor vehicle shall produce certificates of registration, insurance, fitness and permit, the driving licence and any other relevant documents on demand by any police officer in uniform...” The amendment (14th amendment) notified on November 2, 2018, says that after the words “the driver or a conductor of a motor vehicle shall produce certificates”, the words “in physical or electronic form” shall be inserted.

I must also mention that the Information Technology Act 2000 gives legal recognition to electronic records, so the digital documents downloaded from the government platforms are legal, valid documents. In fact, it was way back in September 2016 that the Union government declared that citizens need not carry their driving licence and registration certificate in physical form anymore and can instead have on their mobile, the electronic version of these documents downloaded from DigiLocker. As DigiLocker is a secure cloud-based platform provided by the Union government for issuance and verification of documents and certificates in digital forms, young netizens quickly downloaded the documents, only to be fined by the traffic police for not carrying the original hard copies of the driving licence and the registration certificate.

This forced the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to write to the state governments on the legal validity of the electronic documents downloaded from the DigiLocker or the mParivahan platforms. These advisories, however, did not bear fruit and the traffic police continued to penalise consumers for carrying only the soft documents.

On November 2 last year, the central government amended the Central Motor Vehicles Rules to further clarify the matter. However, even after that, many policemen expressed ignorance about it and hauled up vehicle owners for not carrying the hard version, forcing the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to again write (on November 19) to all states and union territories, asking them to bring to the notice of the enforcement officers, the new provisions in the MV Rules that allow citizens to produce registration certificate (RC), driving licence, insurance, certificate of pollution under check and any other relevant documents in physical or electronic form.

By now, these instructions have hopefully percolated down to the traffic constable level and so if you are still carrying your RC, DL, etc. in your wallet, I would say that it’s finally time to changeover to virtual RC and DL. 

If despite all this, traffic police imposes a fine for not carrying the physical documents, what can one do?

I do believe that by now, in most atates, the government and the police have issued suitable instructions to the traffic constables on the legal validity of the electronic documents and so I do not see any problem. However, in many states, citizens/consumers have in the past been unjustly made to pay fine for carrying the electronic documents and I do feel that the governments should refund this amount. In fact what is needed at this juncture is an online provision to refund the unjust fine imposed on citizens by the traffic police in different states, for producing only the digital documents. Such refund would not only be fair and just, but would also give consumers, the confidence to switch over to electronic documents. Consumers must demand it.

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